Los Angeles Kings sign Swedish Elite League defenseman Johan Fransson

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He’s Swedish and his name looks almost the same on paper, but no, the Los Angeles Kings didn’t sign Johan Franzen. Instead, the team signed Swedish Elite League defenseman Johan Fransson to a one-year contract. Rich Hammond shares some details about the blueliner.

Fransson became Kings property after the Feb. 2007 trade that sent Mattias Norstrom to Dallas, but Fransson had been unsigned and playing in the Swedish Elite League. Fransson, 25, is 6-foot-1, 183 pounds, and totaled 11 goals, 19 assists and 26 penalty minutes in 54 games last season for Lucea HF.

It sounds like Fransson will have a shot at making the Kings’ defensive rotation by attending training camp this summer.

The thing is, the Kings D-core is loaded with young talent already. Obviously, there’s Norris Trophy candidate Drew Doughty leading the charge, but the Kings also feature prospects and/or young starters such as Jack Johnson, Vyacheslav Voynov, Thomas Hickey, Alec Martinez, Colten Teubert, Nicolas Deslauriers and Davis Drewinskie. There might even be a player or two who was lost in that ridiculously deep group of young players.

While it won’t be easy for Fransson – or any of the second tier players in that group – the Kings benefit from considerable depth. This could allow them to recover from injuries or even trade for proven NHL players.

I think the Kings are the future … *cough* kings of the Pacific division. They’re building their team the right way, too, with incremental improvements rather than stabs in the dark. Of course, things could change if they go after Ilya Kovalchuk as many have wondered.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.